I never thought of manna this way until I read the writings of St. John of the Cross. He was writing about how we need to "mortify all our appetites." He uses the example of what happened when the Israelites were given manna (heavenly food from God) and they rejected it.
He points out that God didn't even begin to send the manna until all the flourhad run out. He says that God isn't able to give us heavenly blessings untilwe start desiring them and give up on our earthly appetites. The Israelites werejust plain hungry and they would take anything that gave them nourishment whenGod sent them manna. You also have to make note that it wasn't God's originalintention for them to need the manna because He had them leave Egypt with enoughflour to sustain them into the Promised Land that was flowing with milk and honey.He sent the manna to make a way for them in spite of their disobedience thathad caused them to run out of food in the first place.
St. John of the Cross points out that manna was one of the three items that Godwanted put into the Ark of the Covenant, along with the Tablets of the Law andthe rod of Moses. Each of these three teach us an important spiritual lesson.The people were very happy and satisfied with the manna when it first showedup. God meant it as an object lesson of His loving provision for them. Soon,they became resentful and hungry again for the things of earth.
I'm sure most of us can relate to this feeling. You know what it's like to betraveling and long for the goodness of a home cooked meal. But these people hadbeen eating heavenly food, and they now they craved the food of earth. There'ssomething really messed up with that. Psalms 78 recalls these events in 78:23-24it says, Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors ofthe heavens: he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grainof heaven. But when the people complained God sent them meat like dust orsand and he watched them eat, verses 30-31 say: But before they turned fromthe food they craved even while it was still in their mouths, God's anger roseagainst them: he put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the youngmen of Israel. Still they kept on sinning.
God has quite a task to teach us to crave heavenly things. St. John of the Crosssays it this way: The Israelites did not perceive the taste of every otherfood that was contained in the manna, because their appetite was not centeredon this manna alone. They were unsuccessful in deriving from the manna all thetaste and strength they were looking for, not because the manna didn't have thesebut because of their craving for other foods. (The Collected Works of St.John of the Cross, translated by Kavanaugh (ICS Publications), p. 128).
So my questions for myself and you this week are
- Where has God been sending you manna from heaven?
- What are you focusing on that keeps you from receiving and treasuring the manna you have?
- What will you do as a result of realizing this?